Label PRomotion | Does Anyone Proofread Labels or Packaging Anymore?

Careful attention to typos and language is taking a backseat to brand presentation.

I recently purchased a First Alert fire extinguisher. In large type under the words “Professional Grade” was the phrase, “Complainant with NFPA code.” Complainant? Seriously? How about “Compliant?”

While the product itself hopefully is “professional grade,” the packaging gaffe is anything but. Why is this happening everywhere we turn? What message does it send consumers about the product itself? And what should a company in a similar situation do about it?

Reasons

There has been a society-wide decline in the perceived importance of accuracy in written communications. It’s okay to butcher the English language in a text or e-mail, so why should we be so concerned about the correctness of our label and packaging verbiage?

Coupled with the seeming lack of concern is a lack of attention. I’ve pointed out typos and language misuse to companies that genuinely seemed shocked—often because the information had been present for years without anyone calling it to their attention. (I will reach out and see what, if any, response I get about remedying this obvious error—and report what transpires.)

Another issue is overwhelming demands on finite resources. While one would think that taking the time to proof packaging and labeling content carefully before printing should be a high priority, clearly it is not in too many cases. Product performance and branding presentation, in the minds of many, command much more attention. (I obviously don’t agree, but that view appears to be losing favor.)

Message

While I’m certainly not going to return the fire extinguisher over this issue, given that First Alert products would appear to be adequate performers, it does make one wonder about who’s paying attention—or not—at all levels of the company’s operation.

A well-known fire extinguisher is one thing. But what about typos/inaccuracies in medication packaging or labels, nutraceuticals, foods, other consummables? Here’s a real-life example of how that can be a problem: According to one manufacturer of lupini beans (an unusual but intriguing form of bean), each serving had equal carbohydrates and fiber—meaning that 3 grams of carbs were in essence negated by the 3 grams of fiber for net zero carbs.

Later, another lupini product package revealed carb/fiber ratios that were much more carb-heavy. A recent lookup on Google shows a 2:1 ratio. For those looking for low carbs or high fiber, the difference is significant—especially if one is diabetic. I’ve stopped consuming them altogether because of a lack of confidence about their true nutritional content. Yes, it’s important to get this stuff right. Product manufacturers need to redouble their efforts to do so.

Remedy

When product manufacturers become aware of label and packaging errors, the first obvious step is to correct it. The second, which most companies are loathe to take, is to come clean about it in a highly public way. In other words, admit the mistake even if you haven’t been caught.

While this can be a highly volatile, potentially reputation-damaging step, there’s also the potential for a very positive outcome. If, for example, First Alert were to issue a press release and conduct a social media blitz about the “complainant vs. compliant” error on their package, they well could find themselves on the plus side of consumer sentiment—both for being forthcoming when they didn’t have to be, and for using the opportunity to re-commit to product excellence at all levels.

As “fake news” becomes more prevalent, “refreshing truthfulness” will reflect even more favorably on the companies willing to step up. Think about it.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. is president of Lusky Enterprises Inc., a marketing communications and content development company. Since 2008, he has worked with Lightning Labels, a Denver-based all-digital custom label printing company, as a content developer specializing in expert advice articles. Lusky presents common-sense ideas grounded in doing what’s real and right for managing and enhancing public image.

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